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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Death of the 'Family Farm' / Genocide for Profit

The following article was originally written in Feb. 2010 to bring to readers' attention the rapidly escalating Food inflation problem that may or not lead to food shortages but will still cause multitudes to die of hunger because they just will not be able to afford even a subsistence level diet. I decided to post this article once again after reading this headline on Yahoo New, reported on Jan. 17, 2011: 

 THE FAMILY FARM: “A family farm1 is a farm owned and operated by a family, and passed down from generation to generation. It is the basic unit of the mostly agricultural economy of much of human history and continues to be so in developing nations. Alternatives to family farms include those run by agribusiness2, colloquially known as factory farms3, or by collective farming4.” Land ownership as symbolized by the Family Farm has meant individual freedom since the days of Cain and Abel. Immigrants from Europe flocked to the shores of America to pursue this impossible to achieve dream in the old world ruled by greedy feudal lords, kings and the Pope. They gladly suffered extreme hardship making America west of the Mississippi into the granary of the world. Family farms in most parts of the world were small tracts of land cultivated by one family that provided employment to the family but more importantly, fed them as well. Even a few acres of land yielded enough crops to feed the family with some left over for bartering purposes, and larger farms grew grains etc. for trade with neighboring countries. The economies in rural areas were self contained with little or no dependence on outside trade, at least where food stuffs were concerned. This was a model that lasted for nearly 5000 years and whilst it was far from perfect, it is the one model that was historically the most egalitarian. A man who does not have to rely upon another for his basic sustenance is an IN-DEPENDENT person and can live life with dignity due to all men that have been created ‘equal’. Ownership of land in the form of ‘family farms’ has been the only real avenue available to the masses for freedom and independence.

As a matter of fact till the Johnson administration changed the definition of poverty to a number linked to an arbitrary dollar amount, poverty meant not being a land owner, that’s it! Despite their high sounding egalitarian ideals, framers of the constitution firmly believed in ‘class’ and thought some classes of society to be less equal than others, and therefore not fit to be land owners, this is the real reason for the phrase, ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ in the constitution. This phrase is so subjective as to be almost meaningless; there was much debate whether the original phrase, ‘The Right to Own Property’ should be included in the constitution. Tragically the norm in human society has been feudal slavery not independence and individual freedom. I believe we are now entering a ‘Brave New World’5 of Agribusiness2, factory farming not family farming that is not only bringing back the feudal societal structure of the dark ages but is a harbinger of even darker tidings. It would be safer to compare the transformation taking place in farming today with the Soviet Agro collectivist farming of the Stalin era. Even that comparison may not suitably reveal the dire situation confronting the world today where food production, and more importantly, food distribution is concerned. When the very reason for the production of food is to make a profit, fatten the bottom line, then production of food for sustenance of the population becomes of little or no concern to the agribusiness, but it should be of great concern to the population.
RURAL TO URBAN POPULATION RATIOS: Throughout history the world’s population has been far more agrarian than industrial. “The last century has seen the rapid urbanization6 of the world’s population", as the global proportion of urban population rose from 13% (220 million) in 1900, to 29% (732 million) in 1950, to 49% (3.2 billion) in 2005. By 2050 over 6 billion people, two thirds of humanity, will be living in towns and cities.”6 Currently the estimate is that around 51% of the world’s population reside in urban areas. A 37% increase in the ratio of rural to urban population in just one century is a dramatic change. Technology has indeed played a role in developed countries where industrialized farming has led to less work opportunities in rural areas, thereby forcing many people to relocate to cities to find work. Industrialization of third world countries such as China and India has also accelerated the migration of many from rural to urban areas in the hopes of finding steady employment. Though a small percentage in the change in rural to urban population ratios can be attributed to the previously stated reasons, the majority of people that have left farming to pursue other activities have not done so by choice, especially in third world countries.
COLLECTIVIST FARMING / AGRIBUSINESS: Agribusiness was first attempted on a large scale during the Soviet era of Josef Stalin. The transformation of ‘family farms’ to a State owned Agribusiness2, forcibly so in the USSR during the 1920’s and 30’s under Stalin had a heavy human cost. During the winter of 1932–33 alone some 10,000,000 peasants were starved to death, 7 million of them in Ukraine, among whom 3 million were children. There is a heart wrenching video titled Harvest of Despair7: the Soviet engineered famine in Ukraine 1933. The Jewish holocaust is thought to have claimed 6 million lives over the course of 4 years at the hands of the Nazis; by comparison the Ukrainian holocaust8 claimed 7 million lives in less than a year. In modern times, the Soviets were by far the most efficient in the extermination of a large population in a short period of time, far more so than the Nazis.  Food is the ultimate weapon of mass destruction; take away food and the mightiest of the mighty will fall let alone peasants who were not even allowed to retain their farm implements in the 1930’s Ukraine. The history of the Ukrainian holocaust is well documented yet not well known at all in the west, especially in North America.
SILENCE OF WESTERN MEDIA: The Ukrainian holocaust8 is rarely mentioned by western media, which is why very few in the west know about it. Perhaps the reason is that the implementation of the Soviet ideology under Stalin was aided and abetted by powerful people in the west from political leaders to media giants to writers such as George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells. ‘Except for individual atrocities, the Red terror did kill for a reason’, wrote H.G. Wells, and even after touring the Ukraine in 1934, he continued to be an admirer of Stalin. G.B. Shaw was perhaps even more admiring of Stalin, since GB’s Fabian socialist ideals9 were being implemented by Stalin, even at the expense of millions of lives. For Wells, Shaw and their like minded contemporaries this was a small cost to pay for the creation of Utopia (as envisioned by them.) Pulitzer prize winner journalist Walter Duranty10, the Moscow bureau chief for the NY Times from 1922–36 blatantly lied and wrote there was no famine in Ukraine even while privately admitting that as many as ten million people may have perished as a result of the Moscow made famine. He was also a great admirer of Stalin and wrote many articles that put a positive spin on Stalin’s brutal reign of terror11. Makes you wonder what else the NY Times has published, and may continue to publish that is not true. Neither FDR nor any other western European heads of State denounced Stalin for his monstrous policies that are estimated to have claimed 60 million lives over the course of some 30 years. Keep in mind that the total population of the USSR was only 150 million. The Prime Minister of France after visiting the Ukraine in 1933 called the Ukrainian famine stories a bourgeois conspiracy. George Orwell12 was one of the few western voices to acknowledge the genocide and his book Animal Farm13 was greatly influenced by this tragedy. The real reason for the silence and complicity of western leadership in Stalin’s genocide was the fact that Stalin had embarked on a program of modernization of Russia14 and the USSR and desperately needed western technology. The only way for him to pay for it was with grain that he took from where it grew most abundantly, the Ukraine. 

MONSANTO15 THE NEW SOVIET: The collectivist Agribusiness2 farm model has returned with a vengeance in the 21st century although it has a new name; nowadays it is called MONSANTO15. Though many in western countries may have heard the name Monsanto10, they know little or nothing about its operations or the nature of its businesses. Actually this may only be true for western city dwellers, over the past decade, most farmers in the west have come to know, and fear Monsanto, some are deathly afraid of this multinational corporation, the reasons for which will become obvious later on in this article. This 100+ year old company started off as a chemicals manufacturing venture and over the course of the last century, it brought the world, PCBs, DDT, Agent Orange, and Bovine Growth Hormone16 among other Frankensteinian products, products that have had monstrous effects upon the health of millions worldwide. Over the course of the last decade, Monsanto has made a switch from Chemical giant to a Biotech titan, food it seems is the final frontier for this forward thinking company. Here’s a brief excerpt from the Wikipedia article on Monsanto10: “The Monsanto10 Company (NYSE: MON) is a U.S.-based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is the world's leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as "Roundup"17. Monsanto is also the leading producer of genetically engineered18 (GE) seed; it sells 90% of the world's GE seeds. It is headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri. Agracetus, owned by Monsanto, exclusively produces Roundup Ready soybean seed for the commercial market. In 2005, it finalized purchase of Seminis Inc, making it the world's largest conventional seed company.”15
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SEEDS: Now this may not be common knowledge (yet) but in the world of agriculture, nowadays we have two types of seeds; GE (genetically engineered) and conventional seeds. Monsanto controls 90% of the GE seed market and is now the world’s largest conventional seed company. Antitrust laws are so 20th century, in the Brave New World of the 21st century it is absolutely safe for all the earth’s inhabitants to have their total food supply source (THE SEEDS) controlled by one corporation. Food that grows out of the earth is not the only farming product of interest to Monsanto; they are also actively engaged in bringing ‘husbandry’, animal farming under their umbrella. By acquiring the Seed business of the world, they control which seeds will be made available to farmers, it is widely believed that if their conquest of worldwide agriculture continues unimpeded, conventional seeds for just about every type of produce will be a thing of the past. Having created GE seeds for major staples such as wheat, corn and soybeans, Monsanto scientists are busy working on making GE versions of everything from rice to cauliflower to tomatoes to lentils. The last one is particularly troubling since ‘lentils’19, along with rice are the staple food of a billion plus people in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. According to Monsanto this is ‘progress’, ‘innovation’, an ‘evolution’ in agriculture beneficial for all; the facts reveal the opposite to be the case. Their strategy to control the major part of the world’s food production, if not all of it, is beyond the genius of any James Bond villain and equally, if not more diabolical.
THE MIRACLE OF ROUNDUP17: As mentioned in the Wikipedia entry, Monsanto is the manufacturer of the herbicide Roundup17. In addition it has created a genetically engineered Soybean seed (and others) that is resistant to Roundup; it has a patent on this seed. The idea of issuing patents for seeds, livestock and even human genes is morally repugnant; yet the all too compliant courts have no problem agreeing with ‘The Corporation.’ I have provided a link here to an excellent documentary titled ‘The Corporation’20 that reveals, not fully, but to a great extent of the power and role of corporations in the modern world. Corporations are the modern soviet collective, that take from the many for the benefit of the few. Many people will protest that I am anti – capitalism but that is not what I am contending. Individual enterprise is not the same as the modern ‘Corporation’. In the real world, corporations, specifically multinational giants like Monsanto are antithetical to individualism, freedom and free enterprise. Leaving aside the pros and cons of ‘The Corporation’20 let me continue with their genetically engineered seeds business. Whatever they do to the seed, it makes it resistant to the herbicide Roundup. What that means is that the plants can be sprayed with Roundup that would kill all the weeds around it but have no impact on the plant itself. How safe can the food be that comes from a plant that can withstand spraying that kills everything else around it is beyond my understanding? But then I’m no rocket scientist or geneticist! And soybeans are the staple in animal feed; the animals that we eat are eating this product that has been heavily sprayed with Roundup. How a chemical that kills can be safe for animals or humans to intake is beyond me; even if the soybeans are only fed to animals, we do end up eating them when we eat the animal. Since these GE seeds supposedly yield a larger harvest than conventional seeds, the extra cost (Oh yes they cost more) is worth it for the farmers. Despite studies that show negative and toxic effects that result from ingesting GE foods, the FDA and other regulatory bodies around the world have allowed these seeds to become the dominant seeds with soybeans, wheat, corn and other staple foods. Watch the excellent documentary at the top of the page for more information on GE seeds and Monsanto, it is titled Controlling our Food.21
MONOPOLIZING THE SEED MARKET: Leaving aside the safety issue with GE seeds, let us examine the control issue. When a farmer agrees to buy seeds from Monsanto, he signs a contract in which he agrees to not save seed to plant crop in the following year. This forces him to buy seed every year from Monsanto, and therefore his business and livelihood are held hostage by the corporation. In addition he has to buy Roundup also from the company for without the herbicide the crop would be overrun by weeds. In the past farmers would plant a conventional seed (natural, not genetically engineered), and then weed the fields as required, so traditional farming was labor intensive. However, the food that was put on the table was ‘natural’ and ‘nutritious’ and there was enough work on the farm to keep the whole family employed. The decline in nutrition value22 of most foods over the past century has been researched and documented. This model of conserving seed for next year’s crop has worked for thousands of years but has apparently become outdated, at least according to Monsanto’s vision. Monsanto employs agents that may be termed ‘Seed Gestapo’, their job is to ensure that farmers have not stored up seed as per their contract or are in violation of any other clause to which they became bound when they signed up with Monsanto. Hundreds of farmers in the US and Canada have been financially and emotionally destroyed as a result of Monsanto litigations.23 This is the reason why there now exists a culture of fear and mistrust in the Midwest where farmers are encouraged to snitch on each other; all they need to do is dial a toll free number. Gone are the days of farmers being a ‘community’, raising barns for each other and helping in other ways, now they speak guardedly with each other not sure if the other one is a Monsanto agent. The government in almost all cases sides with the corporation, not surprisingly so, the following  video reveals that government and the corporation are one and the same, staffed by the same people; therefore they cannot serve the interest of the citizen but must serve their paymasters, the corporations.
SEED CONTROL = GENOCIDE: In countries like India where small farmers not only make a living but depend upon a small farm to produce enough food for the family to live on, factory farming is neither desirable nor moral. Yet Monsanto has made great inroads in India which has led to an epidemic of farmer suicides24 where Monsanto’s GE seeds, especially in the cotton industry have wreaked havoc upon the lives of small farmers. Thousands of small farmers have committed suicide as they face the sceptre of starvation through loss of their family farms that are mortgaged to buy these ‘high tech’ miracle seeds that Monsanto promises will bring them untold riches. “The current fate of farmers in India is a tangled hierarchy that involves politics, agro-business, multinationals, trade liberalization, global subsidies, the environment, water, ethics, and human rights.” Read more25 on this genocidal problem in India where the American model of mega farming can never work without resulting in what would amount to genocide. The other tragic consequence of these ‘farmer suicides’ is that the family left behind finds itself facing an even dire situation than before; in most cases the children pay the heaviest price. The children may end up on the streets in nearby cities, or they may be sold off for use as labor in factories and other businesses, or worse still they may be sold off for as little as $20 for the purchaser to do with them as they please. I personally know an American lawyer who works in South India for an organization that rescues and attempts to rehabilitate child prostitutes, both male and female. For every one child they rescue there are thousands that are suffering terribly all across India.
Vandana Shiva is India’s best known opponent of multinationalism, especially in the food business, there is great deal of information on her website26 that would serve us all well to study. This problem of food scarcity will impact the west too at some time in the future, and the day of reckoning may come sooner than most people think. The above posted short video27 accurately summarises the problems in India that are a direct result of the attempts to modernize farming methods, modernizing being a euphemism for selling seeds and pesticides. Stalin’s attempts at modernizing the USSR resulted in what was probably the biggest genocide in history, 60 million dead and millions more condemned to hard labor in the gulags of God forsaken Siberia. In the third world modernization is neither desirable nor beneficial for the common person; one of the main causes of Africa’s perennial food shortage problems has been the mostly forcible conversion of family farms to factory farms, thereby leaving millions with no means of sustenance. Lack of food production avenues is a much bigger cause of genocide in Africa than AIDS. India that is already one of the most impoverished countries in the world and has 1/6th of the world’s population to feed will not be well served in her attempts to ‘modernize’, give over her food production to multinational corporations, i.e. Monsanto.
 SAFETY IN DIVERSITY: The diversification of seeds, particularly of grains, has occurred over thousands of years, so that grains indigenous to a given region are more suited to survive and thrive in that region. Diversity is also a natural safeguard in that if a disease ravages one variety of seed, a different variety would survive so that the whole grain production is not wiped out with catastrophic implications for human life. This is the reason why there are hundreds of varieties of wheat, corn, rice etc. and it is not desirable to have only one variety worldwide. If the same GE wheat is planted all across the world and it becomes subject to a deadly disease, as crops frequently become subject to, it could lead to a global disaster with tragic consequences, loss of life would be in the tens of millions if not more. The scary thing is that Monsanto is not only engaged in engineering GE seeds, they are in the process of patenting GE hogs, cattle, chickens, turkeys, fish and any other animal that serves as food for man. Patents on seeds are one thing but patents on living animals are another ballgame altogether, it is beyond Frankenstein in my opinion. How long do you think it will be before there are patents on human beings? I would not be surprised in the least bit if there are patents on ‘humans’ already; Transgenics which is the business Monsanto is engaged in must not be limited merely to crops and animals. I’m sure the geniuses at Monsanto have already calculated the billions, rather trillions that can be made through human genetic engineering.
CORPORATIZATION = COLLECTIVIZATION = TOTALITARIANISM: This article is not another beat up on Monsanto diatribe but it addresses the greater danger of modern collectivization that is rapidly occurring through corporatization of the whole world. Through mergers and acquisitions, whole heartedly endorsed by Washington and governments worldwide, production and distribution of all goods has been concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. This may not be as big of a concern where TV sets and automobiles are concerned but it is of major concern where food production and distribution are concerned. The Soviet experiment has clearly shown the high human cost of collectivization and centralization. Centralization is totalitarianism; when a few make wide ranging decisions for the many, the many become subject to the whim of the few and that is totalitarianism. Corporatization is totalitarianism disguised in Armani suits instead of Nazi uniforms. This may sound extreme but how is the desire to control the food production of the entire world less megalomaniacal than Hitler’s desire to control the world? Corporations such as Walmart and Exxon have annual sales that are greater than the GDP of 80% of the world’s countries. Walmart’s sales are greater than the GDP of Sweden, and its current growth rate it is projected to pass India’s GDP by 2015. Forbes.com28 reported in 2007, “And speaking of GDP, Wal-Mart's sales last year were greater than the economies of 144 countries, according to the International Monetary Fund.” Of the top 100 economic entities in the world, measured by GDP and annual sales, 49 are countries and 51 are corporations. It is important to keep in mind that corporations, especially titanic multinational ones such as Monsanto, Walmart, Exxon, Bayer etc. are not entirely independent entities. They often have interlocking directorates and management, so they exercise far more power and influence as a megalithic block than do individual countries.
Just as policies formulated in Moscow benefited only the few in Moscow but caused untold hardship and brought untimely death, often murderous, to millions so is the case with collectivization through multinational corporations. Policies formed by the board of a multinational in New York or London are not formulated to promote the welfare of the common person in the highlands of Bolivia or South Africa or India. The board is only concerned with the bottom line though they may create high sounding slogans as to how their products will bring utopia to the third world. Multinational corporations as a rule are in the business of exploitation for profit as has been too well documented. Whether it is sweatshops in Indonesia making Nike shoes or emaciated women carrying 40 lb. sacks of tea leaves on their heads picking tea that will be labeled ‘Fair Trade’ (I suppose $1.50 a day wages are fair so the trade must be fair), when a corporation calculates costs, human costs are not factored in the calculation. As evidenced frequently in the 100+ years of its history, the human costs of Monsanto’s business have been rather high, just ask the citizens of Anniston, Alabama29 that were knowingly poisoned over the course of 40 years. The EPA currently list 56 sites in the US alone that have been contaminated by Monsanto. These are labeled Superfund30 sites, so the contamination is not minor; there is no real way of calculating the health and economic costs of such contaminations. Regulatory bodies such as The FDA and Health Canada have shown themselves to be all too eager to please the corporation at the expense of public health. The famous case of Health Canada firing three scientists31, Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon and Gerard Lambert, who refused to allow the use of Bovine Growth Hormone in Canada, makes you question whose health do these regulatory bodies protect, the public’s or the health of the corporation’s profits? The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favor of Monsanto in the epic court case of Percy Schmeiser32, dubbed the David vs. Goliath case. I suppose the Davids of today have no friends in high places or high courts, for that matter.
The death of the family farm signals the end of civilization as we know it. This transformation that is rapidly occurring across the globe from Africa to Asia to South America will have, and is already having deadly consequences. The collectivization of worldwide farming and the elimination of the family farm may perhaps have a greater human cost than all the wars and genocides of the 20th century put together. If history is an accurate gauge then what lies ahead is not utopia but a Brave New World that Huxley and Wells could hardly have envisioned. In closing this following video33 summarizes most of the concerns expressed in this article, there are dozens of videos on both You Tube34 and Google video35 that document the truth about Monsanto and other multinational corporations that are living  embodiments of the biblical adage that ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’.

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